Treatise in the Mishnah; tenth in the order Ḳodashim. It deals with the dimensions and the arrangement of the Temple, and is divided into five chapters containing thirty-four paragraphs in all.
- Ch. i.: The night-watches in the sanctuary. The priests kept guard in three places, the Levites in twenty-one (§ 1). These watches were controlled by the captain of the Temple ("ish har ha-bayit"). When this official passed the priest or the Levite on guard, the latter was required to rise. If he failed to do so, the captain addressed him; and if it became evident that the guard was asleep, the captain struck him with his staff. The captain had also the option of burning the sleeping watchman's coat. The other guards then jested at the expense of the sleeper and shouted: "A Levite is beaten and his clothes are burned because he has fallen asleep at his post" (§ 2). The gates of the hill of the Temple. On the eastern gate was a representation of Susa, the Persian capital, in token of the Persian supremacy (§ 3). The gates of the inner court (§§ 4-5). In the northeastern part of the forecourt was a cell in which the Hasmoneans preserved the altar-stones which were consecrated during the reign of the Greek (Syrian) kings (§ 6). The "place of the hearth" ("bet ha-moḳed") was a large hall with an arched ceiling. Around the walls were stone benches upon which the older priests rested, the younger ones sleeping on the floor (§§ 7-8). While a Levite kept watch outside, a priest within locked the doors, put the bunch of keys in a place hollowed out for them, and covered them with a marble slab, on which he lay down to sleep (§ 9).
- Ch. ii.: The dimensions of the Temple hill: 500 cubits square (§ 1). All who ascended the hill kept to the right excepting mourners and those under a ban, who walked on the left, that they might be distinguished from the rest. Those who met the grief-stricken greeted them with the words, "May He who dwelleth in this house comfort thee"; while to one under a ban they wished reconciliation with his friends and the consequent removal of the ban (§ 2). Within the walls of the Temple hill was a railing which had been broken in thirteen places by heathen kings, but had been restored. Height and breadth of the steps and of the gates of the Temple. All the doors with the exception of those of the gate of Nicanor were covered with gold (§ 3). Dimensions of the space allotted to women in the inner court. From this court the men's court was reached by a flight of fifteen steps, corresponding to the fifteen "songs of degrees" in the Psalms (Ps. cxx.-cxxxiv.); and on these steps the priests stood while singing (§ 5). Under the forecourt were cells inwhich the Levites kept their musical instruments. Enumeration of the thirteen gates of the forecourt (§ 6).
- Ch. iii.: Dimensions of the altar of burnt offerings. This at first was only twenty-five cubits square, but was afterward enlarged to thirty-two cubits (§ 1). The stones of the altar might not be hewn with an iron tool or changed in any way. The reason assigned for this is noteworthy, and is at the same time an explanation of Ex. xx. 25. The weapon which shortens human life and causes early death is of iron, while the altar serves to prolong the life of man by expiating sin; hence it is not fitting that this destructive metal should be used on the altar (§ 4). Arrangement of the place, on the north side of the altar, for killing the sacrificial animals (§ 5). The laver between the porch and the altar (§ 6). The porch, the golden grape-vine with its golden tendrils, leaves, and grapes (§§ 7-8; comp. Hul. 90b, where R. Isaac b. Naḥmani remarks that this mishnah-Mid. iii. 8-was one of the passages in which the wise had spoken words of exaggeration and hence were not to be taken literally).
- Ch. iv.: Detailed description of that part of the Temple called "hekal," of its entrances-one of which, according to Ezek. xliv. 2, was never used -doors, chambers, steps, and balustrades.
- Ch. v.: Description of the inner court and of its chambers. In this court was a hall built of square stones and called "lishkat ha-gazit," where the Great Sanhedrin met and decided all matters touching the priesthood. One of its chief duties was to examine the genealogy of each individual priest and to determine his fitness for service in the Temple. The priest in whom a blemish was discovered wrapped himself in black garments and left the Temple, but he in whom no fault was found clothed himself in white, entered the Temple, and took his place among the other priests. Whenever it happened that all the priests who were examined on a single day were without blemish, that day was celebrated as a holiday. There is no Gemara to this treatise. See also Temple.